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How I use Shortcuts on iOS and a template to automatically setup my weekly note

Written on July 24, 2020

Every week, in Notes app, I create a new Note entry that I use throughout my week for regular meetings and daily note keeping.

While the process of creating my weekly note doesn’t take long, there are a number of steps to the process.

To save time and having to click through folders and typing, I decided to automate the process by using Shortcuts on iOS.

Notes setup

Before going into how everything is automated in Shortcuts, I need to cover how Notes app is setup, how I like to structure my notes, and how I’ve set up a template for my weekly note.

Notes app setup

I use Notes for all my note taking needs. The reason for this is it is easily synced across all my Apple devices, thanks to iCloud. While I mainly work on my MacBook Pro and do most of my note taking there, I like being able to seamlessly move across my iPhone as well as my iPad.

Folder structure on macOS

Folder structure on iOS

Within my synced Notes, I have notes categorized by Folders. All of my work-related notes are in my Work folder. Each Note in Work is a weekly note that starts with the date of the first work day—which is usually Monday.

After the title, are sub-headings of topics I keep track of throughout the week and of my weekly regular meetings.

What that looks like is something like this,

An example of my weekly note

Most of the sub-headings in this note are actually of weekly reoccurring meetings. For this reason, I’ve created a template that captures all this and what I use to create new note entries at the beginning of a work week.

Weekly template

Within the Work folder, I’ve got a Templates folder where I keep templates of various reoccurring notes. One of those is my weekly template.

The weekly template looks like this,

My weekly note template

The first sentence is the title, “Weekly template” and then immediately after it starting from the next sentence are my reoccurring meetings.

You might’ve noticed in the complete meeting note I shared above, the title and the first sub-heading is actually separated by a new line, but in my template it isn’t. At first glance it might look like an error on my part, but actually it is intentional and I’ll cover it in the next part.

My weekly note creation shortcut on iOS

Shortcuts is an app for iOS that lets you do all sort of things on your device. I like to think of it as a Swiss-Army knife of sorts but for iPhone and iPad.

Within a shortcut, there are actions. By sequencing actions together you can create all sort of neat things that otherwise, you might have had to wait for a developer to create an app for you.

One of the options in Shortcuts is Automation. This is where I’ve created a shortcut that fires off at 10AM every Monday.

The shortcut itself is made up of eight actions and this is what it looks like,

My weekly note creating automation in Shortcuts

The first two steps gets the current date and assigns it to a variable called Title.

The next three steps, gets the note titled, “Weekly template” within my Templates folder, takes the contents of the notes and assigns it to a variable called Body.

Immediately after, replace the text, “Weekly template” in the Body variable to just a blank space. The reason for this is because, the text “Weekly template” was just a place holder so that I can find this unique note in my Notes app. By replacing it with a space, now I’m able to create my note with the body and title separated with a space (remember I mentioned the formatting “issue” above in my template).

After replacing the text, I need to update the variable by assigning it to Body again. Now I need to combine my title—the formatted date—and the template together. To do this, I use an action to add the Body variable to the Title variable.

Finally, I create a new Note in the Work folder in Notes app using the variable Title.

Reminder, tap, win

On Monday mornings at 10AM, I get a reminder on my iPhone to run the automation. Tapping on the reminder on the lock screen will run all the steps outlined above and the result is my weekly note ready to go across all my devices. :raised_hands:

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